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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

Vindolanda on Foot

The Stanegate toward Vindolanda on a foggy morning


One of the many appealing things about Vindolanda is the amazing sense that you are seeing things just as they would have been seen by a Roman soldier of centuries past. The landscape looks unchanged and the weather is still questionable. Even the beat up condition of the stone walls perhaps recalls what would have been seen when the Roman army re-occupied the place after one of several phases of demolition and abandonment.

And then a bus pulls into the Visitor Center parking lot.

It just does not seem to fit, and for that reason, as well as the common Yank aversion to driving on the wrong side of things, I am an advocate of “doing” Vindolanda without a car. I have learned a few tips about managing this, and am happy to pass them along.


Getting
There


A raw recruit in AD 310 would have expected a long hike from Londinium northward. In 2010 there is British National Rail. A very timely service runs from Kings Cross to Newcastle, with a convenient link to Hexham and somewhat less regular connections to Haltwhistle and Bardon Mill. Tickets can be purchased ahead at somewhat of a discount.

From Hexham you can catch the excellent AD122 shuttle bus. It stops at Vindolanda and at the Once Brewed Visitor center, but the drivers are always willing to make a special stop anywhere along their route. They have happily dropped me off at the front door of the Twice Brewed Inn.

From Haltwhistle or Bardon Mill you would have to catch a taxi, one can be hailed from the local pub.


Where
to Stay

A first time visitor to Vindolanda will usually be impressed with just how thinly settled the area is. The Romans built in this area because there were huge rocky areas that made good quarries and defensive works. This does not make for good farmland, and what local settlement there was in medieval times was further blighted by centuries of border warfare. All to the good for preserving the site, but if you expect a wide array of inns and hotels with the Vacancy sign out, be prepared to be disappointed.

But fear not. Those laboring away with COHORS IV GALLORUM could step outside the fort’s gate and find a small but industrious community set up to provide the various creature comforts. We latter day members of COHORS I ANDREVICUS or COHORS II IVSTINIVS can do likewise, but it’s a little further walkThere has been some talk of using the National Lottery funds to upgrade not just the on-site Museum, but to build some form of dormitory for volunteer excavators. So far this has remained a future project, but stay tuned..

The closest accommodation is the Codley Gate Farm, a brief stroll from the site. It has been well reviewed, and they would certainly seem to owe Vindolanda a favor or two, much of the establishment having been built with stone looted from the site! A second nearby cottage right on the Stanegate, Causeway House, can also be rented by the week.

The two most logical and economical lodging places are up the road a bit, and are adjacent to each other. It is about 1.6 miles from Vindolanda to the Once Brewed Youth Hostel or the Twice Brewed Inn. It’s a nice stroll after breakfast, and part of it appropriately follows the Stanegate road…putting you literally in the footsteps of the Romans. The shoulder of the road is walker friendly, and the traffic is infrequent.

Choosing between the two requires some balance of cost and comfort. The hostel generally has four to a room, and on the basis of snoring I would likely be tossed after the first night. It has some useful facilities (laundry, food, rather dodgy internet connection), but from time to time has large groups descend upon it like barbarian invasions of old. I prefer to stay at the Twice Brewed, which is also by virtue of having a bar, the default social gathering point for Vindolanda diggers. Perusing their website you will note a limited number of rooms. The “singles” are in particular demand for those traveling alone, speak for them early or be disappointed.

Several other optionsSee the Links section on WeDig's home page for links to excellent Web sites that maintain up-to-date records of area accommodations. Some B&Bs will offer transportation to and from Vindolanda or elsewhere if need be. It never hurts to ask. exist, both within and on the fringes of convenient walking range. By "convenient," I would suggest that after a hard day of work you will not want to hoof it more than two miles! There is a campground a short ways down the Military Road from Twice Brewed. Diggers have stayed there, they can generally be found slightly chilled at the bar sipping whiskey to keep body and soul associated. This is just a bit further, but perhaps if you can get full camping kit all the way to Northumbria, you might manage a bike as well. But be very careful on the Military Road, there is very little shoulder, and the motorists there seem to be raving lunatics.

Across the road from the “Twicey” is a place called Vallum Lodge. It looks a bit upscale to my frugal tastes, but no doubt would serve. And there are a number of other cottage/B&B options in marginal walking range. I spoke with one digger who stayed at the Coach House in Bardon Mill. She did walk it a few times but found it a challenging hike. It looks to be about two miles through scenic terrain. This link gives a nice satellite view of the area (you might have to click the "Satellite" button).


Food and
Provisions

The traditional English breakfast provided by local establishments probably contains sufficient food to fuel a full day of digging. Admittedly, this requires a rather loose definition of food that includes stuff like Black Pudding. The cafeteria on site at Vindolanda provides light lunch and the occasional candy bar for mid day snacking. Excavators get a nice discount, mention your status the first day or two to be sure. Of course, the dirt caked on your clothing might be an adequate clue.

There are tea breaks during the working day. If you desire anything beyond the bare basics, you shall have to provide it.

For your evening meal the Twice Brewed is the best local option. Their website has a menu. The “bar menu” which serves to about 7pm is cheaper than the dinner menu, but is more or less the same offerings.

The next dining opportunity down the road is the Milecastle Inn about 4 miles west of Twice Brewed. I have eaten there twice, once with total satisfaction, once less so. Occasionally a group of diggers might connect with someone with a vehicle, or call a cab.

If you want something a bit more civilized the AD122 bus is an option, especially if you are on Justin’s crew that gets off an hour earlier, or if there is a rain-shortened day. Hexham is not far, and there is a huge Tesco store. For my American countrymen and women this is sort of like a Walmart or Target. Hexham also has quite a few “thrift shops” where I restock my supply of used paperbacks for idle hours reading. You can also get curry and Chinese food, but the last bus running Hexham to Once/Twice Brewed will pinch your schedule a bit unless you decide to cab it back.


Miscellany

The usual walking route to Vindolanda follows the roads, but there is a public footpath that cuts diagonally across fields. This would seem to save time, but it is up and down a couple of ravines, and really does not get you to your first pint any faster. Nice to do on a sunny evening perhaps.

Sometimes your fellow diggers will offer you a lift. Personally, I often decline on nice days, the better to keep my waistline in trim. But sometimes the weather is foul or the legs weary. Offer to buy the first round.

Across the Military Road it is a brief, but of course uphill, walk to Hadrian’s Wall. A fine evening walk, and delightfully lonesome and evocative at sunset

A view of the cliffs at Steel Rigg, with Crag Lough in the distance, in the fading light
.

My usual walking footwear is a pair of hiking boots that have been most of the way around the world with me. In the past I have kept a pair of Wellies on site, but in the upcoming season am planning on just bringing some cheap rubber overshoes of the type we Colonials call “galoshes”. You can’t hike very well in Wellies, and I am too fond of my traveling boots to let them get ground into the mud of antiquity on a daily basis! And remember, a Roman mile was the distance a well-disciplined soldier would cover in 1000 paces (mille passuum). With two in situ mile markers at Vindolanda you can see how the modern marcher compares!

Page created by Tim Wolter